As Chairman of the Mumbai-based Poddar Developers Ltd, Dipak Poddar has a busy schedule. But, that does not deter him from his passion — Contract Bridge, a card game that has been holding its own in the country thanks to a few individuals who are chipping in to keep it going.

“Despite opposition from my family, I enjoy playing bridge and spend close to Rs 15 lakh annually on my team,” avers Poddar. His team was knocked out by Delhi’s Formidables (which is being supported by HCL Corp) in the semi-finals of the ongoing 54th Winter National Bridge Championship in Kolkata. “When my team qualifies for an international tournament, I spend an additional Rs 10 lakh,” he says.

Passion for the card

Poddar is not the only one who is so passionate about the sport.

H.N. Bangur of Shree Cements; Kiran Nadar (wife of Shiv Nadar) of HCL Corporation; Ashok Ruia of Phoenix Group of Mumbai; K.R. Kirubakara Moorthy of Agsar Paint of Chennai; B. Prabhakar of Sree Ayyanar Mills in Tamil Nadu; C.V. Rao of Navayuga Group of Hyderabad; Mohit Mehta, a Kolkata-based businessman — all are card enthusiasts. Each one is playing an active role in this year’s Championship, either as sponsor or player and, sometimes, even both. Bangur and Ruia are the major sponsors of their team. Prabhakar, Technical Director of Sree Ayyanar Mills in Tamil Nadu and director of the Tamilnad Mercantile Bank has been a key player for the Formidables, and has helped it enter the finals.

Moorthy is the moving force behind the Bridge Federation of India (BFI) as its president. Rao is a player-cum-sponsor for C.V. Rao’s IV. Venkatesh sponsors Texan Aces from Chennai.

One of the few women in this sport, Kiran Nadar , too has been a moving force behind the Formidables. HCL Corporation bears all the expenses incurred by the team. She rues that young Indians do not take up the game that is so popular worldwide.

Other than Nadar, Jeroo Mango, Rita Choksi, Bimal Sicka, Bharati Dey, Marian Karmakar are some of the women who are a making terrific impact on the game.

But, is this enough to keep the sport going ?

Arijit Guha, a prominent Bengali actor, card enthusiast and secretary of the Bridge Federation of India (BFI) feels corporate houses should take more interest in the game to keep its alive.

“Individual sponsorship is fine, but we need bigger corporates to come in to support the game,” he feels.

sabanayakan.s@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on December 21, 2012)
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